By Senior Airman Tiffany DeNault
21st Space Wing Public Affairs
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — The world’s self-proclaimed greatest fighter pilot, retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Edward Mechenbier, recently visited Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station and Peterson AFB as part of an American300 tour.
Mechenbier began his career during the Vietnam War as a fighter pilot in the F-4 Phantom, F-100 Super Sabre and A-7 Corsair II among other aircraft. His aircraft was shot down June 14, 1967, and for six years he was held prisoner of war in Vietnam.
Mechenbier and Robi Powers, a veteran and the founder of American300, began their trip at Cheyenne Mountain AFS meeting with personnel April 13. The next day they met with members of the 21st Security Forces Squadron and got to check out their training facility.
The American300 is a volunteer, non-profit organization which focuses on spending quality time with service members, bringing subject matter experts on resiliency to mentor and embed a sense of hope and understanding of the capabilities people possess in certain situations whether it is in war or on the home front.
Mechenbier told his story on being tortured, living with rats and only eating 42 grains of rice and water every day. He also explained how he and the other POWs learned to survive. The POWs discovered new means of communication either through tapping on the wall, hand signals through the tiny window or talking through cups on the wall. They also taught each other different languages.
He then explained how he drew his strength through the men he was with to continue on.
“It’s amazing how we all sell ourselves short on what we can do or what we can endure in a given situation,” said Mechenbier. “I was with a group of guys who refused to come home because we thought it was a propaganda trip and didn’t think the war was really over, so we didn’t leave the camp until an American one star general came in and gave us each an order to leave.”
Upon return, Mechenbier stayed in the Air Force and became a test pilot until he was told he had to find something else to do, so he joined the Ohio National Guard as a pilot for 16 years and then went back to active duty, continuing to fly before retiring in 2004.
“You never know where you’re going to be in two, 10, 20, or 40 years from now,” said Mechenbier. “I surely never thought on June 14, 1967 that I’d retire in 2004 as a major general in the Air Force.”
The stop was one of many for American300, which visits about 400 bases worldwide averaging about 27 yearly tours.
“I do this with Robi because I thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to spend time with you and see what you do,” said Mechenbier. “Some days you might think what you do is not important, but in your heart of hearts you know it is and when push comes to shove, I want to be on your team.”